December 11, 2018

Comey and Cohen

On Friday, former FBI Director James Comey testified before the House Judiciary and Oversight Committees that “the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation into potential ties between the Trump campaign and Russia initially focused on four Americans... Comey did not identify the Americans but said President Donald Trump, then the Republican candidate, was not among them.” AP News

According to Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), “Comey had two lawyers present and one of them was from the Justice Department. The DOJ lawyer... ‘repeatedly’ instructed the members that Comey would not be answering certain questions.” CBS

On Sunday, Comey stated in an interview that “Democrats ‘have to win’ the 2020 presidential election.” ABC News

Meanwhile, “federal prosecutors in Manhattan on Friday asked a judge to sentence Michael Cohen, U.S. President Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer, to a ‘substantial term of imprisonment’ for paying an adult film star hush money on Trump’s behalf and evading taxes.” Reuters

See past issues

From the Left

The left is critical of the Committees’ line of questioning, and believes that the new revelations about Cohen are extremely damaging for Trump.

“House Republicans are using their final weeks in the majority to do everything they can to undermine Mueller’s probe into potential collusion between Trump and Russia during the 2016 presidential election...

“From the onset, it was clear that the purpose of this interview was to extract information from Comey about the Mueller probe and to selectively weaponize his responses in order to undermine his credibility. Comey’s unwillingness to fall for the Republicans’ trap illustrates how overmatched they were against him ― which, again, is why they wanted this to happen behind closed doors.” 

Huffington Post

“For six hours, they grilled Comey in an effort to trap him, trash Strzok, and discredit the investigations. They failed... it’s been more than a year since the texts came out. Republicans have had three chances—the IG report, the July hearing, and Friday’s hearing—to produce any evidence that Strzok’s low opinion of Trump altered the investigations. Three times, they’ve swung and missed.” 

Slate

Worth noting: “It appears Comey may also be a witness in special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe, with a lawyer for the FBI telling Gowdy that Comey was a ‘witness’ or ‘potential witness’ into an obstruction of justice investigation, something Trump may have brought upon himself by firing Comey.” 

Vox

Regarding Cohen, “Mueller specifically mentions that Mr. Cohen provided invaluable insight into the ‘preparing and circulating’ of his testimony to Congress — and if others, including the president, knew about the false testimony or encouraged it in any way, they would be at substantial legal risk...

"Contrary to the president’s claim that all of this ‘totally clears’ him, the danger to Mr. Trump, his business and his campaign has compounded significantly.” 

New York Times

“The filings describe how [Cohen’s] payments ‘sought to influence the election from the shadows’ as decent Americans ‘knocked on doors, toiled at phone banks, or found any number of other legal ways to make their voices heard’... [Moreover] the Justice Department expressly declares this... was carried out ‘in coordination with and at the direction of’ Trump. This stands as a clear accusation in a federal document of a crime committed at his ordering.” 

The Hill

Some argue that “the case for impeachment and removal has become quite a bit stronger than it was a month ago... Because the hush-money episode is ugly on its face, whether or not Trump broke the law. Because there’s more and more evidence of improper behavior by Trump and his campaign with regard to Russia. And because it’s now more obvious than ever that Trump has been lying about both.” 

Bloomberg

“The scary thing for Trump — Mueller knows a helluva lot more than we now know.” 

Axios

From the Right

The right is critical of Comey, and skeptical of the idea of impeaching a president over campaign finance violations.

From the Right

The right is critical of Comey, and skeptical of the idea of impeaching a president over campaign finance violations.

Mr. Comey presented himself as unaware and incurious regarding one of the most consequential investigations the FBI has ever conducted. After describing how little he knew about the federal government’s use of its surveillance powers against associates of the presidential campaign of the party out of power in 2016, Mr. Comey then assured lawmakers that the launching of the investigation was proper and free of political bias.” 

Wall Street Journal

“It certainly defies credulity that some [people] who vocally demand accountability from the Trump administration appear so disinterested in the ‘faulty memory’ of someone who kept copious notes... Comey is scheduled to return for another round on the Hill in front of the committees in two weeks. Anticipate hearing more from the former director regarding just how little he knew about his command and what they were up to during an exceedingly sensitive and consequential investigation.”

Washington Examiner

“James Comey [has dropped] any pretense of being anything but a Democratic-party cheerleader... No doubt there’s a wide range of opinions throughout the rank-and-file agents and staff, and we certainly all hope that the nation’s premiere law-enforcement agency hasn’t succumbed to partisan groupthink. But the more that Comey sounds like an aspiring DNC chairman, the more he chips away at public faith in the institution.” 

National Review

Regarding Cohen, some predict that “the president is very likely to be indicted on a charge of violating federal campaign finance laws... [but ask] Do campaign finance violations qualify as ‘high crimes and misdemeanors,’ which is the constitutional standard for impeachment? It is hard to imagine an infraction that the Justice Department often elects not to prosecute is sufficiently egregious to rise to that level...

“Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign was guilty of violations involving nearly $2 million – an amount that dwarfs the $280,000 in Cohen’s case – [but] the Obama Justice Department decided not to prosecute. Instead, the matter was quietly disposed of by a $375,000 fine.” 

Fox News

“The political dilemma for Democrats is that lying about sex and paying to cover it up are wrong, but they’re a long way from collaborating with the Kremlin to beat Mrs. Clinton. Mr. Trump lied to the public about his dealings with Mr. Cohen. Bill Clinton lied to the public and under oath in a legal proceeding, yet Democrats defended him. Good luck trying to impeach Mr. Trump for campaign-finance violations.” 

Wall Street Journal

To the best of our knowledge, “Mueller hasn’t found a crime connected with Russiagate that someone working for Trump might have committed... Mueller’s end product, his report, will most likely claim that a lot of unsavory things went on. But it seems increasingly unlikely that he’ll have any evidence Trump worked with Russia to win the election, let alone that Trump is now under Putin’s control.” 

The American Conservative

On the bright side...

Studies show that city frogs are the sexiest frogs

The Atlantic

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